Host immune responses limit the duration of expression of transgenes introduced by recombinant adenoviruses, preclude gene transfer upon vector readministration and cause liver injury. CTLA4Ig inhibits immune response by blocking the co-stimulatory interaction between CD28 on T cells and B7 on antigen-presenting cells. We have constructed a recombinant adenovirus, Ad-hUGT1A1-CTLA4Ig that coexpresses human bilirubin-uridinediphosphoglucuronate glucuronosyltransferase (hUGT1A1) and soluble murine CTLA4Ig, both driven by CMV immediate-early promoters. After intravenous injection of this vector (6 x 10(11) p.f.u.) into UGT1A1-deficient jaundiced Gunn rats, serum CTLA4Ig levels peaked at 1.8-2.0 mg/ml on day 7 and declined thereafter to 0.2 mg/ml by day 180. Serum bilirubin declined from mean preinjection levels of 8.0 mg/dl to 0.48-0.6 mg/dl in 3 days, remained normal for 28 weeks, and then gradually increased to 8 mg/dl by day 350. A second injection of Ad-hUGT1A1-CTLA4Ig normalized serum bilirubin. In two rats in this group that were followed longer, serum bilirubin increased to 3.1 and 3.5 mg/dl in 40 weeks, but was normalized again after a third injection. The antibody and cytotoxic lymphocyte (CTL) responses were negligible, and liver biopsy showed no inflammatory cell infiltration. Rats receiving a tertiary challenge with Ad-LacZ (expressing E. coli beta-galactosidase) (5 x 10(11) p.f.u.), 2 months after the second dose of Ad-hUGT1A1-CTLA4Ig, showed beta-galactosidase expression in over 80% of hepatocytes. In contrast, after Ad-hUGT1A1 (which expresses UGT1A1 alone) injection, serum bilirubin remained normal for only 4 weeks, and returned to preinjection levels by day 120. Bilirubin levels did not decline upon reinjection, and beta-galactosidase was not expressed after Ad-LacZ. High levels of adenovirus-specific antibodies and CTL, and hepatic inflammation were found. This is the first demonstration that coexpression of CTLA4Ig permits prolonged expression and repeatable gene transfer by an adenoviral vector.